From Christmas to Stress-mas?

Managing the holiday and festive season stress

7 min | Wellbeing, News
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Julia Buckley

Learning & Development Manager

December 9, 2022

16 days until Christmas – are you counting down the days or losing on hours of sleep?

Christmas, and the holiday season as a whole, has always been seen as a time of joy and festivities, however for many it is also a period of increased stress and anxiety. In fact, according to a survey from Relationships Australia, 86% of respondents reported that they find buying presents to be difficult and 65% reported Christmas shopping a stressful experience.[i]

For some, it is the pressure of present buying and gifting, big family gatherings, and expectations of being sociable all season. For others, it can be financial stress, family tensions, recent losses and grief, or loneliness.

It’s important to remind yourself that it’s ok to feel like this over this time of the year, and that you’re not alone.

We have put together some simple tips and tricks on how to manage stress over the festive period.


Whether you’re a locum worker abroad over the festive season, an overseas doctor, or generally don’t spend Christmas with close ones, being lonely and isolated is not as uncommon as you might think. In fact, in 2021, 33% of Australians reported feeling lonelier in the lead-up, and during, the festive season.[ii]

Organising facetime calls with close ones, or even group calls to play games and celebrate together over the phone, is a great way to connect with anyone across the globe. You can also reach out to neighbours, colleagues, and friends, or even see what’s happening in your local community.

Financial stress

Instead of having the typical last-minute Christmas-panic and buying everything and anything you happen across, how about you plan ahead and set yourself a budget, or a budget per person? This is a very simple and effective way of avoiding financial stress over December and unnecessary panic-buying.

Did you know that 72% of the AYTM 2016 survey respondents think that handmade items are generally more special than mass-produced items?[iii] Creating handmade gifts is also a great way to save money and gives any gift that personal addition.

Family and relationships

For many families, Christmas is a time of tension and stress due to losses, split families, unresolved arguments, or simply not getting along.

To avoid any arguments or additional tension, we recommend you avoid bringing up sensitive topics, respect others’ opinions, be mindful of what you eat and drink, and be accepting that this might not be the most enjoyable day.

Social expectations

COVID put a lot of strain on our social lives, and a lot of us have a reduced social-battery post-COVID. However, the festive season is expected to be where all spare time is spent being sociable.

If this is something that leaves you feeling anxious for December, know that saying ‘no’ is ok, and it’s better to take some rest when needed rather than overdo it. Make sure to always put some time aside for yourself, which could be a relaxing bath, picking up your book halfway through the day, or going on a Christmassy walk alone.

Increased pressure as a medical professional

As a medical professional, it is important to not forget your own mental health whilst caring for others. You will experience increased expectations to care for others, and may work additional hours, all whilst organising and taking part in your own festivities.

It’s important you find the right balance, and give yourself permission to seek your own mental health support if needed.[iv]


Recognising your stressors and triggers is the first step to spending an enjoyable holiday. Remember to always put yourself first.

If your stress, or any other feelings and symptoms, are long-lasting or caused by other issues or concerns, speak to your GP or reach out to your close ones. See this document for a list of useful resources, and see this blog for advice on managing mental health at work.


[i] Relationships Australia, December 2016: Christmas stress, 2017,Christmas%20shopping%20a%20stressful%20experience

[ii] Australian Red Cross, Younger people and women feeling lonelier this Festive season, 2021,,in%20women%20and%20younger%20people.

[iii] AYTM, Handmade Shopping Survey: Many Purchases Still Made In Person, 2016,quality%20than%20mass%20produced%20items

[iv] Medical Forum, Managing Christmas stress, 2019,

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